The high failure rate among companies that pursue a customer relationship management project has led a Canadian industry group to search for best practices.

Toronto-based Customer Relationship Management Association of Canada (CRMA

Canada) Thursday said it was beginning a study of CRM projects among Canadian retail, telecommunications and financial services organizations. The results of the research will include a report card that highlights the way participants deal with common challenges and a roundtable to bring vendors and customers closer together. The roundtable and the report card are scheduled for November.

CRMA Canada president Laura Pollard said CRM failures typically fall in the 60 to 80 per cent range. Through a survey conducted last year, the CRMA concluded that organizational change posed the biggest challenges, followed by company politics/inertia, lack of CRM understanding, poor planning, lack of CRM skills and budget problems. For the report card, Pollard said the CRMA would seek the largest players in each of the three verticals and seek the key contact person or “”lead”” on CRM projects to complete its questionnaire.

“”Our goal is to go in and really understand the people and the process part,”” she said. “”We look at where they are in their life stage with their initiative, because we have to be able to evaluate that against the people skills that they bring to implementing the entire program, from the strategy all the way through to the selection of the technology.””

Organizations often struggle at the people stage, Pollard said, in some cases failing to include the right kind of change management specialists or training staff appropriately.

“”There are enough studies to indicate that the software is not the problem,”” she said. “”Our association is focusing on the people.””

According to Microsoft, however, which is sponsoring the study — improving the technology may help with the people issues. Garth Dean, country manager for Microsoft Canada’s Business Solutions group, said the big issues are around total cost of ownership, ease of use and deployment.

“”They’re strategic issues, and really looking for a product that fits their businesses,”” he said. “”A big part of it is to get customers away from silos of information bases into interconnected databases and draw on a common data structure to feed the various systems.””

Deans said a big disconnect can come when the end user in a CRM project — a sales rep, for example — finds it too tedious to update contact lists or other opportunity management elements. Pollard said there can also be a disconnect over definitions of the approach.

“”The problem with CRM, I think, is a lot of people have different ideas of what CRM is,”” she said. “”If you went to the head of the sales division for a telecommunication firm, you’d get a completely different answer than (from) the head of the marketing division.””

The CRMA’s roundtable will also be trying to bridge another disconnect — vendors will audit the customer’s discussions.

“”We’re not just trying to isolate methods but to develop a sense of discussion between the buy side and sell side,”” she said.

CRMA Canada will build on the research by launching a training program for corporations in the fall, where there will be a review benchmarking skills of all staff involved before and after delivery of the courses, Pollard said.


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